Reviews

GHCD 2258/59 – FAUST – Gounod – 1944 – Faust – Jobin – Pinza – Albanese – Beecham

Metropolitan Opera & Chorus & Orchestra, Sir Thomas Beecham – Conductor

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Brattleboro Reformer, 21.07.2005

Experiencing “Faust” through four different recordings

From Switzerland, there is an the Guild label/ (GHCD 2258/9) a Metropolitan Opera broadcast from April 15, 1944 (what were you doing that day?) with Beecham again an the podium.

Here the big attraction is the very funny (to judge by the audience reactions) Ezio Pinza as Mephistopheles and Licia Albanese as the doomed girl. The Faust of Raoul Jobin is good bat nothing to get excited about. So again, the Devil leads the throng. You can contact Guild at s.guildmusic@bluewin.ch or through their Web site at

www.guild­music.com.

Yet another “Faust” is transferred from a 1951 Columbia LP set onto two CDs as part of Preiser Records Paperback opera series (20015). And guess which character steals the Show? It is Cesare Siepi as a dignified Devil doing his worst to American Bingers Eugene Conley (the Metropolitan house tenor of the time) as Faust and the mach beloved Eleanor Steber as Marguerite.

Here Fausto Cleva leads the Metropolitan forces in the last of the four vintage recordings of this work before stereo and roaring Bulgarian bassos took over the rote of Mephistopheles. Since receiving a copy of this set, I have already played it three times.

It is not available for sale in this country, bat Preiser can be reached at preis­errecords@aon.at or through their Webpage at www.preiserrecords,at. I so love this opera that I try to get every version out there, except for those in which the leads never bothered to learn how to pronounce French. Who needs stereo when one has authenticity?
Frank Behrens

Eagle Times – 13/5/2004

A 1944 Met broadcast of „Faust“

Faust: Remember the ‘golden days” when you could turn on your radio on Saturday afternoons and hear the friendly voice of Milton Cross guiding you through whatever opera was scheduled for that day? Hearing “Carmen’ that way got me excited about opera when still in grade school.

How welcome, then, is a CD recording of one of these now historic broadcasts, including Cross, from April 15, 1944? It is Gounod’s “Faust” with Sir Thomas Beecham on the podium and Ezio Pinza as Mephistopheles. You will find it on the Guild label (GHCD 2258/9) and it is a must-hear.

To my mind there has been only one really good recording of “Faust,” and that came out on 20 RCA Red Seal 12% 78 rpms in 1931 with a Corsican tenor in the title role – Marcel Journet as an exemplary Mephistopheles and an all-French cast. Beecham’s 1947 studio recording is not bad at all but suffers from too many cuts, including the Walpurgis Night sequence and ballet music.

All is not perfect with this “live” Metropolitan Opera broadcast, the sound being what the state-of-the-art at that time could muster up and the Valentine of Martin Singher not quite up to snuff. Licia Albanese sounds far too mature for Marguerite – as she does in the early LP recording of “Manon.” French tenor Raoul Jobin knows what he is about, but lacks tenderness in the love scenes. The impressive program notes that come in the set are quite honest about these shortcomings. Again, there is no Walpurgis or ballet.

Also, some of the original transcription was marred beyond the capabilities of modern computers to fix up, and so bits from a later performance with the same cast had to be slipped in. Therefore if you hear sudden variations in sonic ambience, you now know why.

Now Guild has put out a whole series of ‘immortal performances.” You can learn more about this Swiss-based label on their Web site wwwguildmusie.com and you can contact them at info@guildmusic.com.
FRANK BEHRENS, Contributing Writer


MusicWeb Thursday January 15 04

Given access to the master acetates, restorer Richard Caniell found a number of problems. As is his practice in this series, he has interpolated short extracts from other broadcasts involving the same performers. This gives a sonically acceptable version, one or two pitch variations apart (CD2. tr.8). The value of the enterprise mainly rests on two great strengths, Beecham and Pinza. The conductor’s lightness of touch, and thoroughgoing grasp of the score, merely underlines what is lacking in several more modern recordings. Pinza is by turns vocally suave, sardonic and appropriately saturnine. His ‘serenade’ (CD 2. tr. 11) exhibits all these facets in an altogether superb characterization. Raoul Jobin as Faust is more tasteful than on some of his recordings but sounds rather middle-aged and is a little strained by the high note in ‘Salut! demeure’ (CD 1. tr. 21). Elsewhere he exhibits some elegance of phrase. As his ladylove, Marguerite, Licia Albanese is somewhat overly matronly but sings throughout with steady tone, smooth legato and in the ‘King of Thulé’ and ‘Jewel Song’ (CD 1. trs. 14-15) a secure trill. The Valentin of Martial Singher has no great vocal beauty or strength of characterization. This is strange since he was French-born and the biographical note claims him to be ‘revered for his lieder recitals’. Certainly his diction, and that of the other principals, is good and the French is idiomatic throughout. The chorus sings with enthusiasm and the minor parts are adequate.

As indicated the sound is acceptable if not particularly atmospheric or immediate being rather lacking in forward presence. However, that is to carp. The issue makes it possible to admire Pinza and Beecham and that opportunity alone is worth the price.
Robert J Farr